Monday, August 3, 2009

ON BOOKS ~ Listen Up...

My parents swear I was born knowing how to read. There wasn't a long period of time where they read to me because pretty quickly I showed that I could read it myself perfectly fine thank you very much. So perhaps that is why I was never really drawn to the whole audio book premise. It never occurred to me to let someone else do the reading.
What if you don't like the narrator's voice? How do you mark passages that strike a chord which you might want to re-visit? Do you go crazy when the story starts cookin' and you have to sit patiently and wait for the reader to get to the good stuff? What do you do with your hands?
I never seem to have the right occassion for an audio book either. I have a 15 minute commute. I can't stand to read in short bursts like that - I need at least a half hour solid. I get most of my reading in at the gym on the eliptical while I have any variety of sporting events on the TV where the announcers queue me to the exciting parts. I couldn't watch the TV on mute and listen to a book - my mind would wander to the TV instead. And I'm not shutting off the TV since I don't want to miss the game. If I tried to listen while doing chores I'm afraid I'd become too engrossed in the story to focus on the job at hand. Plus, how am I supposed to get all that stuff done without my cleaning music to motivate me?
So when we planned our 1,300 mile road trip vacation I decided that this might be the perfect opportunity to give the audio book a try. I used to be able to read in the car when I was a young bookworm but these days it turns my stomach upside down for some reason. And if I'm not the one driving I get extremely bored with just music. That's why I generally listen to sports talk radio because the conversation keeps me thinking and interested - though I tend to miss exits and other such things which are imperative to the geographically challenged. So while riding along on this vacation with poor radio frequency, an audio book seemed like a great idea. Now the challenge was finding something that both Andy and I would agree upon.
Enter Sandy who is always singing the praises of this medium. Her terrific reviews are so good she could make me want to listen to something as boring as a history of the Puritans. Oh wait. That's what she DID make me want to read. Actually, I had put The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell on my To Read list about a year ago. But Sandy's audio book review jogged my memory and gave me the perfect selection to appease both Bumbles. For those not familiar, you can read Sandy's review here. She sums it up quite well. Essentially, an entertaining non-fiction book about history, specifically history taking place in and around the area we live, is something I knew Andy would like. And since it was on my list to begin with I figured why not give it a go.
Since I have turned into a Wordy Blogmate here I will get to the point - which is to sum up our experience with the audio book. Early on the first leg of driving, Andy (who just recently has gotten the hang of enjoying reading more than his Rolling Stone magazines) requested I pop in the first disc like the good Bumble that he is. I cannot convey how much it must have pained him to go for the book CD instead of the music CD. But knowing that we had 7 1/2 hours of listening to get through I popped the book right in. The author, whose voice often reminded me of Linus, began regaling us on the history of Puritan sermons and the basis for their religion back in England. Worried about what I had gotten us into, she suddenly veered off into comparisons with pop culture and modern politics which were laugh out loud funny. Good save, Sarah!
I found throughout our trip that I was generally the one to take a break from listening, feeling at times that I was living through a college lecture on theology. But never knowing when she would pepper in a Fonzie reference kept me coming back for more. The end really picked up when she got to the battles with the Indian tribes and finally there was some action going on aside from heckling church-goers. Squeezing in those last few tracks bumped up right against the Red Sox game which we had been deprived of for 8 days, and whose radio signal range we had just re-entered. It was tough setting aside the Sox, but we stayed with the audio book through to the end and were glad for the history lessons. We now consider ourselves quite the Puritan experts. We both agree that we would have given up on reading this book ourselves so without the audio option we never would have learned who the Hutchinson Parkway is named after or why it would have irked Boston's first political leader. Maybe that will come in handy some night at bar trivia.
We learned that audio books are something that helped us to get through all the traffic jams and long ugly stretches of highway by making the time go by more quickly. We also learned that lighter fare is probably better for staying awake instead of zoning out. But tackling a book that is really long or of a tougher subject can be less daunting with the audio route. In the end, it's nice to know there is more than one way to consume a book.
THIS POST MENTIONED BY DAVID @ AUTHOR BLOG FOR "POST OF THE DAY"...THANKS DAVID! VISIT HIS REGULAR COLLECTION OF OFFERINGS FOR POSTS OF THE DAY.

11 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

We love audio books for road trips. I use them for my short errand trips too, but agree that something gets lost that way. And the narrator is definitely important. A boring voice can really put you to sleep - not what you want in the car!

kaye said...

I like audio books for road trips too. One summer we drove to, and through Yellowstone National Park and back. We listened to the unabridged audio book of "Lord of the Rings". As I recall it was 72 hours of listening and it lasted our whole trip. The two children with us and my husband had never read it, or even had any desire too. So it worked out well for us. I also enjoy listening to books as I sew.

farmlanebooks said...

I love audio books too! I like listening to them when doing chores around the house too - cleaning the bathroom seems so much more fun when you are listening to a good book.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I whole-heartedly agree with you...not sure if I would want to READ that book, but Vowell delivers it well! I'm so proud of you! Audio listening IS an acquired skill of multi-tasking. I can clean house, clean the pool (as long as I am careful not to fall in), pull weeds, iron shirts, drive, walk, and ride the ellipical. Body in one place, mind in another. And hey! If you decide to give it another go, I've got more suggestions!

stacybuckeye said...

I love audio books, especially for road trips, but you always have to have a backup or two. Sometimes books do no translate well to audio or the narrator just grates on your nerves. And it's true that you'll stick with a questionable audio book longer than you would if you were reading. I'm so glad you are now tuned into audio books :)

Ann Kingman said...

I love audiobooks, too, but I know exactly what you mean about needing something to do with your hands or your eyes. Sometimes I knit when I listen to audios, but it still feels a bit strange. I mostly listen to audiobooks in the car, and I mostly listen to thrillers or other light fare that allows me to concentrate on traffic. My favorite audiobooks are A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Into Thin Air by John Krakauer (read by the author -- amazing!).

Just discovered your blog - love it and will be back.

PennyLane said...

Have not tried an audiobook yet. I think I will be hooked if I do :)

I agree with the narrator voice. That may pose a problem.

Glad you are home safe from vacation!
Did you catch the Sox and the O's this weekend?

boliyou said...

I'm a big fan of audiobooks. I love Sarah Vowell's work, but it's even better in audio. If you like her "style," she has three other books, all available on CD.

In many cases I prefer to have the author read the book. This has been especially true with Steve Martin and Alan Alda (check out Alda's "Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself").

Cheffie-Mom said...

I came over from David's place. Congrats on the Post of the Day mention!

Brian Miller said...

the ones that are done well are pretty amazing...some are audio dramas, read by a group of actors each playing a part which i thoroughly enjoy. now that the boys are here we are relegated to their audio books....moose and muffin and all that...it entertains them.

Lynn said...

Nice post about the plusses and minuses of audio books. I usually listen to books on tape only if it's a book I'd never read myself, but it's one that still sounds worthwhile -- and kind of like your experience, sometimes I'll hear something all the way through that I know I'd give up on if I were the one doing the actual reading. Glad you found a book that was acceptable to you both, and now you're ready for those Puritan trivia questions that the bar emcees are so fond of asking :) Glad you're back safely from your trip, too.